What's a honing steel?
This is a honing steel:
It doesn’t look like much.
Sometimes it’s called by other names such as a sharpening steel, sharpening rod, or chef’s steel, but it doesn't actually sharpen your knife.
A sharpener sharpens a knife by creating a new edge when the old edge is torn apart by use.
Sharpening has a cost. To create a new edge, the old edge must be removed. Sharpening is destructive.
Honing does something different. Honing takes an existing edge and improves it for a purpose.
At a microscopic level, the edge of the knife is getting pulled in many different directions, off its straight line. Honing effectively pulls that edge back into alignment. All the particles that were pulling away from the edge are aligned with it again.
Honing sharpens through refinement instead of reconstruction.
You need sharpening when the old edge is worn down and no longer viable. Other times, you need refinement, practice, or realignment to stay sharp.
Can you tell the difference?